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Cross-Examining Jordan

Eason Jordan's admission of complicity with Saddam's regime raises a host of questions that must be answered by CNN.

11:30 AM, Apr 15, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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Last Friday, CNN's Eason Jordan published an op-ed in the New York Times that contained some admissions that cannot be considered as anything other than astonishing. CNN's "chief news executive" confessed that, among other things, Saddam's crazy son Uday had told Eason in 1995 that he, Uday, intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law. The two men were not warned by CNN and were eventually lured back into Iraq where they were murdered.

Jordan said in his Times essay that he felt awful having these stories "bottled up inside me." Not as bad as the brothers-in-law felt, of course, but pretty bad. Jordan went on to confess that during his watch CNN also failed to report other tales of the Hussein regime's towering brutality.

Some observers exploded in outrage at CNN's complicity in the crimes of Saddam Inc. Still others asked why Jordan chose to make his confession now. In fact, there are a series of questions that need answering in short order. CNN is, after all, part of a publicly traded company with obligations to its investors. Jordan's decisions have tainted CNN's reputation, undermining the key asset of a news gathering organization--credibility. (Last October Jordan even misled the New Republic's Franklin Foer on the very subject of CNN's reporting on Baghdad, as Foer recounted in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.) CNN's credibility may be beyond salvage, but any serious effort at holding itself out as a reliable news source will have to follow full disclosure of key questions, some of which the SEC might also be interested in. These questions include:

Did Jordan disclose his decision not to disclose the threat to Hussein's sons-in-law to anyone above him in the CNN/Time-Warner chain of command? If so, when did he do so?

Did the board of directors of Time-Warner approve the policy of non-disclosure? Did they receive a legal opinion on whether such a non-disclosure constituted a breach of reporting duties for a publicly-traded company? Was there ever a discussion on whether such a policy could endanger shareholder value by putting at risk the central asset of a news-gathering and news-reporting company, specifically, its credibility?

Once Jordan was aware of the threats to employees of CNN, who were Iraqi nationals, did he inform prospective employees of those threats before hiring them? Was the policy of exposing Iraqi nationals to risk of torture and death discussed with senior CNN management and Time-Warner management?

Once Uday informed Jordan of his threat to his brothers-in-law, did he ever again mention the subject to Jordan? Did it occur to Jordan that, having secured his acquiescence in their deaths, Uday would consider CNN compromised and thus easily manipulated?

Has Jordan failed to reveal other non-disclosures that reasonable people would consider material?

Did Jordan previously disclose any or all of these revelations to any official from the United States government?

Will CNN be appointing a special counsel to conduct an internal review of the handling of this matter? Will Time-Warner's board be appointing such a special counsel?

Will Jordan appear before any committee of Congress which investigates this matter? Will members of CNN staff and Time-Warner management appear?

Are there any similar non-disclosure deals at work in Cuba, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Burma, or any other country in which CNN maintains a presence?

Will Jordan make himself available for interviews by competing networks and major newspapers?

Those will do for starters.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.